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A. A Satellite that Offers New Insight into Solar Flares

Narrator: This is Science Today. A satellite designed by scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, has captured never-before-seen details of an enormous solar flare. Robert Lin, a physics professor and the principal investigator for the RHESSI satellite, says the one they captured was of the largest type - what's called an X-class flare.

Lin: The size of one of these explosions is hundreds of times the size of the entire Earth. A large solar flare will release the equivalent of a billion megatons of TNT -effectively, a billion large H-bombs in a timescale of tens of seconds to tens of minutes.

Narrator: The RHESSI satellite takes X-ray and gamma ray images of these solar flares and is so sensitive, it captured a new energy band called micro flares, which may have an effect on the heating of the sun's corona.

Lin: There have been theories which postulate waves or small micro flares and nano flares to heat it and we're hoping if we get enough data from RHESSI that we'll be able to explore at least one of these possibilities.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.